Scientists from Appalachian State University found that arterial stiffness and blood pressure in young, otherwise healthy adults may take as long as six months to improve following a COVID-19 infection.
The discovery was made in a follow-up study tracking people recently infected with COVID-19.
The research is published in the Journal of Applied Physiology and was conducted by Stephen Ratchford et al.
In the study, the team wanted to know if or when arterial stiffness and blood pressure in 14 young adults (seven men and seven women) would improve following a COVID-19 infection.
Progress in these areas would ultimately improve vascular health during the recovery process.
Arterial stiffness is typically caused by aging, hardening of artery walls and inflammation.
Increased arterial stiffness or blood pressure is linked to an increased risk of heart diseases such as heart failure, high blood pressure and stroke.
The researchers performed testing on the study volunteers in a lab once a month for six months.
Testing included a health survey and measurements of blood pressure and pulse wave velocity, and pulse wave analysis, among other markers of arterial disease.
The team began seeing improvements to arterial stiffness and blood pressure by months five and six.
The results suggest that several months of recovery after infection may be necessary, even for young, healthy adults.
The team says this study is a step in the right direction to understanding the potential long-term heart complications caused by COVID-19.
If it can take young, relatively healthy people this long to recover, the researchers are curious about more susceptible populations and how others will recover following additional infections with other COVID-19 variants.
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